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Kwanzaa music

Question for my colleagues, and hoping African-Americans on this list will offer an opinion.  Obviously there's no tradition of Kwanzaa choral music going back centuries. It reminds of of how there's wasn't Hanukkah choral music 30 yuears ago and now there's lots of it, dozens of pieces (still paling compared with thousands of Christmas pieces). In the asbences of good Kwanzaa choral musiic  (there is some, and there's at least one thread about it in the archives, and surely there will be more and more down the road), it it better to do generic African-American music like spirituals and such?  I feel a little wrong about this, just as I'd feel wrong doing Hava Nagila at Hanukkah beucase it's a Jewish piece (I'm Jewish).
I'd love some opinions, some insight.
Replies (12): Threaded | Chronological
on December 16, 2012 11:06am
I have been observing Kwanzaa for many, many years. There are CD's available at the African American Cultural Center, the headquarters of Organization Us of which Dr. Maulana Karenga is the director and also founder and creator of Kwanzaa, which is an official holiday celebrated Dec 26-Jan 1. You can call/e-mail him there. He is very accessible. Kwanzaa is a Pan-African holiday that is non-religious, non-political and non-heroic and derived from the "first fruits" or harvest celebrations of Africa. It is a celebration of family, community and culture. It is a celebration of our Africanness and thereby spiritual in nature. African-American music and African music would both be acceptable. But I suggest you find something that illumines these themes and/or the 7 Principles on which Kwanzaa stands (a candle is lit for each day/principle of Kwanzaa), and/or the moral and ethical philosophy behind the holiday. FYI, at the Karamu (the 2nd major celebration of Kwanzaa held on the 6th day/Principle of Kwanzaa, Kuumba or Creativity), the music is African and very festive. Spirituals (which are connected to slavery) would not be appropriate because Kwanzaa reaches much back farther into our history as a people. It reaches back to our legacy as the kings and queens of civilization. It would be wonderful if there were more choral pieces celebrating this rich cultural heritage. I applaud your inquiry. Many programmers leave Kwanzaa out of their holiday celebrations. Year after year I go to concerts where only Christmas and Hanukkah are observed and wished the rich cultural tradition of Kwanzaa had been included. Sites for official information:,, Yvonne Farrow, Choralographer
on December 29, 2012 4:51pm
 Kwanzaa is an American developed tradition circa 1965 to celebrate African culture.  I agree that no specific Kwanzaa choral music but may I suggest similar. Given that Kwanzaa does involve candles then Peter, Paul, & Mary's Light One Candle is appropriate & I think Marc Cohn's Rock of Ages is suitable as well (not the Christian Rock of Ages, the Jewish one).  A distinct piece that I own is Johnny Clegg & the Jaluka Band. This is an African folk group that sings songs of peace & humanity. Their lyrics may be English or in an African langauge but the cd is excellent.  There is a distinct spiritual that I liked from the musical Riverdance-NYC version.  It resonated because of the superb baritone voice of the singer-has something to do about the heartland.
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